Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Review #13 Cleopatra's Heir + Interview with Author Gillian Bradshaw

Cleopatra's Heir
by Gillian Bradshaw
Review and Interview with Gillian Bradshaw

Genre: Historical Fiction
Ages: This one is very difficult for me to put an age to, my sister read it at 12, and liked it, but from what she said it may have been better to wait a year. I first read it when I was 14, and it didn't bother me at all. 13 might be the perfect number. :)

This book is on my top-ten historical fiction books, what number it is exactly, I cannot say. I have never been able to pick out a Number One, but this one could be it. I have always loved Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt, and Cleopatra's Heir blends all three cultures beautifully. I have read it three times since I first discovered it.

Caesarion, son of Cleopatra and Julius Caeser, was supposed to die. History says that he was killed, betrayed, but what if he survived? What if, somehow, he escaped? Wounded, wracked by epileptic seizures, he stumbled away from his own funeral pyre, stumbling as far as he could before collapsing on the road. The merchant Ani, a pious Egyptian, came across this wounded boy in the desert and took him in, caring for his wounds with absolutely no idea what he was getting himself into.
Caesarion is a proud, arrogant, determined and utterly impractical person who is portrayed in a completely believable fashion. One would think that such a person would be no fun to be around, but I found myself hoping as the story went along that he would somehow survive and find a new life.

There is hardly any languague in this book, though there is some calling on of mythical god, I give it a 4.10.

There are scenes of violence scattered throughout, including some ancient medical practices that are basically torture, so it gets a 6.10.

There are some sexual references as well as a somewhat disturbing scene where slavers inspect a young girl, so I rate it a 4.10.

I am pleased to welcome Gillian Bradshaw to Songs and Stories, she has graciously agreed to answer a few questions and it is absolutely wonderful to have her here. :)

What made you decide to write a story about Caesarion?

I suppose I was intrigued by the contrast between his background as the son of two of history's most legendary figures and his own insignificance. (It's surprising how many people don't realize that Cleopatra had children at all.) I wondered what it would have been like for him, and what would have happened if he hadn't died so young.  I did a bit of research, decided he would probably have been a monster, like his parents, put the project aside for a bit--then hit on the epilepsy angle, which made me sympathize with him again.

In all of your research and studying, who is your favorite out of all of the historical figures you have come across?

Eh.  Hard one: it tends to vary with what I'm reading now; there's also a distinction between figures I like and those I find fascinating. (A lot of the most fascinating figures in history aren't very likable--e.g., Augustus, Constantine, Oliver Cromwell . . .)  At the moment the one I like most would be John Lilburne, or possibly his wife Elizabeth--Levellers, who campaigned for democracy during the English Civil War.  He was excitable, quarrelsome, generous and self-sacrificing; she was incredibly brave and loyal. I like Athanasios of Alexandria, too, though he undoubtedly was a rabble-rouser, and Socrates always seems utterly charming. 

Which genre do you enjoy writing more, historical or science fiction?

Which do you prefer, cheese or apples? I like both, at different times.  Writing something with a contemporary setting means I have more freedom in the language and metaphors I can use, and I can communicate things about the characters from, e.g., the clothes they wear or the sort of car they drive.  On the other hand, I love history.

That said, my science fiction got steadily more and more realistic, until the last one I wrote (Bloodwood) was entirely a realistic novel (apart from the hallucinations.)   This is odd, because I love science fiction and fantasy, and find it much easier to write than realistic contemporary fiction, as well as more fun to read.  Blood was a painful struggle all the way through: why did I have to do it?  I don't know, though I'm very proud of that book, even though practically nobody's read it.  In contrast, the few fantasies I've written were very easy, done between more serious books just for fun. (These aren't the Arthurian books, which were the first novels I ever wrote, but some others that couldn't find a publisher.  I'm thinking of self-publishing one on Amazon for the Kindle, if you're interested.)

If you could meet one of your inventions, which one would it be?

Archimedes, I suppose.  Though I think that of all the characters I've invented the one I feel most sympathy for is Caesarion.  I was very pleased that you liked him too.

Do you ever think about what happens after the book ends? Such as, what happens to Arion and Melanthe after the end of Cleopatra's Heir?

Oh, I often think about what happens to the characters after the book ends!  But I can only write about it if it's a proper story.  Obviously, Arion and Melanthe are going to move back to Coptos, and the family will get rich from the Red Sea Trade, which boomed big-time in the early Empire.  I think their marriage will have some rough patches, since his temperament isn't an easy one, but she'll keep it happy.
I'd  like to have Arion meet Hermogenes, from 'Render Unto Caesar'.  They would have been contemporaries, and both involved in trade.  But I don't know if there's enough of a story there to sustain a whole book.

Are you working on anything new? Can you tell us anything about it?

I have another book coming out next month; it's called 'A Corruptible Crown', and is the sequel to 'London in Chains', my Civil War book. It's set in 1648, and the chapters alternate between Lucy, the heroine of 'London in Chains' and her husband Jamie.  I've also about finished research the next one, which will be set in 1688 in England and the Netherlands; this is to tie off some of the themes (printing and radical politics) of the last book.  After that I may go back to the classical period or I may do something completely different.

As I mentioned, I'm also intending to self-publish a fantasy book and see whether anybody reads it!

I hope that's some help.  I am most impressed with your efforts as a blogger!

Best wishes,

Gillian Bradshaw

Thank you for answering my questions! It was wonderful getting to talk to you after having read so many of your books. I hope you do publish that fantasy story, I would definitely read it! A Corruptible Crown sounds great, I really liked London in Chains and I would love to see those characters again. :)

                                          Good Luck!
                                                   Lieder Madchen

1 comment:

  1. Just ordered the book, Cleopatra's Heir. Caesarion, son of Cleopatra,allegedly, with Julius Caesar.My feeling about Caesarion is that he had so much incredible potential, which, sadly, was never realised.Unless,of course, he developed some of his parent's unpleasant traits. We may never know.I'm certainly looking forward to what G.B makes of him !